Jennifer Warawa
Executive Vice President, Sage

Jennifer has been with Sage since 2008. Prior to working with Sage, she owned her own accounting and consulting firm in Kelowna, BC, Canada for 12 years providing accounting, bookkeeping, consulting services, software training and implementation, business/financial planning services and marketing. 

Jennifer has been recognised by Accounting Today as a ‘Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting’ for the last seven years, a ‘Top 40 Under 40’ for the past six consecutive years by the CPA Practice Advisor, and one of the ‘Top 25 Most Powerful Women in Accounting’ for the last four years running by the CPA Practice Advisor. 

Why did you decide to pursue a career in accountancy?

I grew up in an entrepreneurial home (my parents were business owners) and as a result I have a very ‘entrepreneurial spirit’. One day my step-dad lost the bookkeeper / accountant in his business, which happened to be at the same time I was taking accounting at college. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to immediately apply what I was learning in the classroom in a practical way. I learned that behind every successful business is someone who understands the numbers (financials) and once I realised the numbers tell the story of the business and accounting it’s so much more than just the numbersYou could say I fell in love with it.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career? How did you overcome this?

If I’m being transparent, I would say that one of the biggest obstacles for me has been learning that challenging, constructive (and sometimes very painful) feedback doesn’t equal failure. Many managers, leaders and mentors find it hard to have those difficult conversations and as a result people often walk around oblivious to where they have room to improve. I remember the first time I received some very direct, honest feedback (which did sting a little) I almost felt as though I had failed. However, I realised that this leader was just being honest with me and that he probably wasn’t the only one who thought I could improve in that area. Over the years, I’ve taken tough feedback, learned from it and improved myself based on it, and will continue to do so. I know I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing today if it hadn’t been for those leaders caring enough to be honest and if I hadn’t been able to apply those learnings.

Who has been your biggest inspiration? (Either in your personal or professional life)

I have been inspired by many people over the years but one of my greatest inspirations was my mother, who I lost in a car accident in 2005 when she was just 50 years old. Throughout my life, my Mom taught me, both by example and by what she said, that nothing is impossible. In my Mom’s eyes, there was never a limit to what I could be or what I could become and it opened up possibilities that would have otherwise seemed impossible. As a single parent for much of my childhood, my Mom showed me what innovation was before innovation was even a thing, reinventing herself as many times as she needed in order to provide for my sister and I. Even though I no longer have her physically in my life, the lessons she taught me and the way she inspired me continues to be part of my DNA.

What’s the best piece of career-related advice you’ve ever been given?

One of the greatest pieces of career-related advice I’ve ever been given was by Jim Pattison, a Canadian business mogul, investor, philanthropist and CEO of the second largest privately held company in Canada, the Jim Pattison Group. I had the fortunate opportunity to sit down one-on-one with him a number of years ago, (which is a whole story in itself) and in he told me “You will be amazed at how successful you can become if you don’t care who gets the credit”, which was great advice. At the end of the day, I sincerely believe what goes around comes around and if you do great work, it will all come full circle so I try to focus on successful outcomes versus worrying about who will get the credit.

What three words sum up your career?

Evolving; Ambitious; Possibilities.

How did you get to where you are now?

I have had one principle I have lived by since eighth grade: if you give more than is expected of you, while expecting nothing in return, the dividends will be great. Throughout school and my career I have gone above and beyond many times, taking on responsibilities I was not expected to, offering to jump in when needed and delivering more than was expected. Not because I was offered some reward in return or because I’d be compensated for my extra efforts, but because that’s one of my values. Almost every big opportunity I’ve had in my life can be directly traced back to an example of where I went above and beyond with no line of sight to extra reward, and it’s been an incredible journey as a result. It’s the one piece of career advice I give to anyone who asks.

What advice would you give to a woman starting out in the accountancy industry?

Don’t hit the glass ceiling. In fact, there is no ceiling at all. Regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman, the opportunities available are endless but you need to go after them. Push harder, demand equality and be ambitious.

What do you think the future of the accountancy industry holds?

I think the future of accountancy belongs to those who determine how to leverage technology to facilitate making better decisions in business. As an example, if an accountant can ‘partner with technology’ (leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning) to analyse multiple data sets and tell a business owner that they need to stock up on inventory and bring in extra staff because the weather forecast, prior sales on this day last year and the upcoming holiday predict that sales will double over the weekend, how brilliant is that? At Sage, we have been talking about how the shift from looking in the rearview mirror (aka financial statements from last month, last quarter, last year) to real-time data analysis to predictive data analysis to prescriptive data analysis represents a massive opportunity for accountants. There has honestly never been a better time to be in the accounting profession.

Reach out to Jennifer on her LinkedIn, or you can find more interviews here.

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